Sex, STIs and specific cultural practices

Each country or area has its own specific customs. Some can be a determining factor in your sex life and can also increase the risk of STIs. Read about:

  • Medicinal and cultural healing practices
  • Vaginal steam baths and herbs
  • Dry sex and a tight vagina

Medicinal and cultural healing practices

Are you HIV positive and travel regularly to your home country, for example a country in Sub-Saharan Africa? If so, there is a strong chance that you will come into contact with traditional medicinal and cultural healing practices. For example, some local herbs are assigned special healing powers that are good for your body and spirit. It is up to you whether you take these herbs, but remember that the effectiveness of HIV medication has been proven, so continue to take your HIV medication and talk to your doctor or HIV specialist nurse if you have taken part in cultural healings or are thinking of doing so.

Vaginal steam baths

In Suriname and some African countries, it is very common to take a vaginal steam bath. Some women do this twice a day, in the morning and in the evening.

However, vaginal steam baths are not without risk. Your vagina can become so tight that you run a greater risk of tears and bleeding. This is not only painful, but you are also at greater risk of contracting an STI.

What is it?

A vaginal steam bath is a hot steam bath with boiled leaves, herbs or tree bark that you squat over to clean your vagina. In Suriname, it is very common for Creole, Javanese, Hindustani and Indian mothers to take a steam bath after giving birth. This is a tradition that is often passed down from mother to daughter and is an essential part of the postnatal period. The hot bath is intended to remove blood residues and to contract the uterus so that it returns to its pre-pregnancy position. It prevents unpleasant smells and the young mother gets her figure back.




Surinamese and African women who live in the Netherlands also use vaginal steam baths. In the Netherlands, vaginal herbs can be purchased on the market in Amsterdam Zuidoost, in some Surinamese and African shops, and on the Internet. Some plants and herbs are harmful to health, while others are not.

Tight vagina and ‘dry sex’

Some herbs and plants make the vagina dry and tight. Women believe that lots of men like and enjoy this. A dry vagina can be a way of committing a man and reducing the chance of him finding other girlfriends. However, this ‘dry sex’ can be very painful for women. During sex, wounds and infections easily occur that cause bleeding. In addition, a condom is more likely to tear if the vagina is too dry. This increases the risk of STIs, including HIV.

On the other hand, Surinamese and African men often see a moist vagina as a sign of a woman’s promiscuity. This can be a reason for a man to end the relationship. All in all, this is a major dilemma. Discuss it with one another! Remember that your health is the most important thing.